The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in favor of one of the firm’s clients in an appeal brought by the defendants. In Rawls v. Yellow Roadway Corporation, the Full Commission awarded Veran Rawls ongoing total disability compensation since his 2005 truck accident. Defendants argued that the Full Commission had erred in several findings of fact, claiming that they were not based on competent medical evidence. The Court rejected all of these arguments and affirmed in full the Commission’s decision. Hank Patterson and Narendra Ghosh represented Mr. Rawls in the appeal.
— Posts About Results
The North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the North Carolina Industrial Commission in Ray v. NC Department of Transportation. The case involved the death of a motorist and her passengers in 2002 when an eroded section of pavement caused her vehicle to go off the roadway, she corrected, and hit an oncoming car head on. The plaintiff alleged that that NC DOT was negligent in maintaining the roadway and not repairing the eroded section which they knew was dangerous or should have known was a dangerous to motorists. The Commission dismissed the case based on the public duty doctrine which can be used as a defense by the State of North Carolina from certain tort claims. Reversing, the Court of Appeals concluded:
“ This case does not involve a failure to inspect or to police, but a failure to repair a defective section of roadway. There is no “hazard created by others” or important discretionary decision which requires the government to be protected under the public duty doctrine.”
Burton Craige wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice for this case. The brief can be accessed here.
In, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1328, the Wilmington transit authority is challenging a labor arbitration in favor of the Union, which ordered a terminated employee be put back to work. This case is before federal Judge Boyle in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Yesterday, Judge Boyle ruled for the Union, concluding that there were no grounds to reverse the arbitration decision. Finding the city’s lawsuit to be “without justification,” Judge Boyle also awarded the Union its attorneys’ fees for defending this case. Here is the opinion. Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.
In Campbell v. National Pipe and Plastics Inc. the Plaintiff, Sherron Campbell, was represented in part by Narendra Ghosh of Patterson Harkavy. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled for the plaintiff in affirming the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s Opinion and Award, which had awarded workers’ compensation benefits to Ms. Campbell.
Ms. Campbell suffered injuries to her right hand and fingers when attempting to stop her fall by grabbing a nearby pipe. This injury and resulting disability also aggravated Ms. Campbell’s depression, which had been manageable up to this point. In the appeal, the defendants contended that the Commission erred in assigning weight to Dr. Williams’ testimony, arguing that they considered it to be speculative because he did not identify a specific degree to which Ms. Campbell’s compensable injury by accident had exacerbated her preexisting condition. However, the Court held that Dr. Williams did not need to determine to what degree the workplace injury exacerbated the psychological condition, but only that it was a factor in the exacerbation of Ms. Cambell’s preexisting condition. The defendants also contended that the Commission did not determine if plaintiff’s statements to her doctor were credible, but the Court ruled that a doctor is entitled to rely on information provided by the patient to form his opinion. And, in any event, the Court of Appeals does not have authority to reweigh evidence or credibility determinations after the Commission has considered it. Defendants’ final argument that the Commission erred in giving weight to Dr. Prakken’s opinion was overruled by the Court, which concluded that the Commission does not need to explain why it has given weight to particular evidence.
In Evans v. Hendrick Automotive Group, the North Carolina Court of Appeals published this opinion, ruling that defendants improperly appealed a non-final decision of the Industrial Commission, and dismissing their appeal. Ms. Evans was an office manager for a Hendrick dealership in Texas. She was injured during a business trip to Charlotte, while she was walking back from an employer-sponsored dinner to her hotel. The primary issue is whether the Industrial Commission correctly concluded that Ms. Evans’ accident arose out of and was in the course of her employment and properly awarded her workers’ compensation benefits. The case now returns to the Commission. Narendra Ghosh helped represent Ms. Evans.
In the case of Pascoe v. Furniture Brands International, Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment today. The case will now proceed to trial, which is scheduled for later this month. Ann Groninger and Joshua Van Kampen represent the plaintiffs, Pam Pascoe and Margaret Tambling, against their former employers in this case.
Judge Whitney did not issue a written decision, but plaintiff’s memorandum in opposition to summary judgment well describes this case:
This case raises a very poignant and present question, which is the extent of an employer’s liability under state and federal law for the conduct of a seemingly mentally unstable supervisor who tormented his female employees with threats of violence, including gun violence, surveillance of their homes, and numerous bizarre sexual comments. Regrettably, the conduct at issue in this case is a cautionary tale of an employer that flubbed the handling of a potentially dangerous situation by initially ignoring glaring warning signs, subsequently severely under-reacting to them, and which ultimately chose to circle the wagons around the proverbial outlaw, rather than act as a responsible member of our corporate community. Thankfully, Spicer did not turn his guns on these women as he said he might, but plaintiffs feared that he was fully capable of physically harming them. They have carried emotional scars left by Mr. Spicer’s conduct; injuries made worse by their employer’s betrayal of them. Defendants may aim to use their summary judgment motions to establish a low water mark of the protections afforded women in the workplace in North Carolina; however, plaintiffs respectfully submit that they have marshaled sufficient facts to permit a jury to answer that question.
In Simmons v. United Mortgage and Loan Investment, LLC, the Fourth Circuit ruled for plaintiffs and reversed the district court in this wage and hour case. The plaintiffs are Charlotte-based Junior Asset Managers for a mortgage company who were not paid overtime even though they worked more than 40 hours per week. They brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) based on the failure to pay overtime. The primary issue is whether the plaintiffs will be able to pursue their case as a collective and class action on behalf the other underpaid workers at the company. The defendants tried to short-circuit the collective/class action process by tendering a limited settlement offer before other workers could be notified of the case. The Fourth Circuit rejected this tactic, finding the settlement too indefinite to moot the case. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to consider plaintiff’s motion to certify the collective action and plaintiffs’ amendments to the NCWHA claims. Ann Groninger, Burton Craige, and Narendra Ghosh are representing the plaintiffs.
More from the opinion below:
On December 22, Judge Voorhees in the Western District of North Carolina denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment in Fox v. Alexander County. Terry Fox, the plaintiff, had been employed by Alexander County EMS since 1983 and had been promoted several times. In 2006, Fox was demoted and replaced by a younger worker, purportedly because of a slow response to a call. The Judge, however, concluded that plaintiff had “ample evidence” that would allow a reasonable jury to believe that the reasons the county gave for demoting Fox – mainly that his team did not meet a standard response time on a call – were a pretext for age discrimination.
Accordingly, Fox’s claims for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) and under North Carolina state law can proceed to trial. This decision is a significant victory because North Carolina federal courts rarely rule for employment law plaintiffs when deciding summary judgment motions. Fox is represented by Joshua Van Kampen.
More from the opinion below: Read more…
On Monday, December 6, firm partners Leto Copeley (Chapel Hill) and Ann Groninger (Charlotte) obtained a $250,000.00 verdict in Forsyth County Superior Court on behalf of their client, Thomas M. Sprinkle, against Hammaker East Emulsions, LLC, an asphalt manufacturing company.
Mr. Sprinkle was working for his employer Blythe Industries as a tack distributor truck driver on December 3, 2008, the day of his injury. That morning his truck was empty and he drove to Hammaker East to have the truck loaded with tack. After directing him to the loading dock and inserting the pipe into his truck, a Hammaker employee told Mr. Sprinkle that the pipes were clogged and it would be a little while before the tack started flowing. Mr. Sprinkle remained on top of his truck, as he normally did, waiting for the tack to flow. What he did not know, because Hammaker employees failed to tell him, was that, when the clog loosened, it would come out with a big “kapow.” He also did not know that, in addition to blowing air through, and heating the pipes, the Hammaker employees left on the valve that allowed tack to flow from their system into Mr. Sprinkle’s truck. When the clog finally loosened, the pipe came bursting out of the truck, spraying tack all over the truck and Mr. Sprinkle and knocking Mr. Sprinkle more than 10 feet to the ground.
Mr. Sprinkle’s knee was “pulverized” according to his doctor. He had a complicated surgery to reconstruct his knee, a long period of recovery, and will likely need knee replacement surgery in the future. After knocking him off his truck, Hammaker employees left Mr. Sprinkle sitting outside in the below-freezing temperature, until his supervisor arrived and called 911. There was testimony that Hammaker’s plant manager, Bryan Miller, was slurring his words and reeked of alcohol immediately after Mr. Sprinkle’s fall.
Attorneys Valerie Johnson and Narendra Ghosh and paralegal Elizabeth Weatherspoon provided valuable assistance throughout the trial.
The North Carolina Supreme Court denied the defendants’ petition for discretionary review (PDR) in Taylor v. Town of Garner. The Court of Appeals decided earlier this year that Officer Taylor is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from the Town of Garner for the injury he suffered while working as a mounter officer at an N.C. State football game. Because Officer Taylor was working pursuant to a mutual aid and assistance agreement between the Town of Garner and N.C. State, Garner remained responsible for his workers’ compensation. The Court’s denial of the PDR means that Officer Taylor will finally receive his benefits. Valerie Johnson and Narendra Ghosh represent Officer Taylor.